Monday, February 29, 2016

Favourite New Track: "More Than" - Wintersleep

Although Wintersleep's sixth album The Great Detachment isn't due out until Friday, I was lucky to get a live sneak preview of the forthcoming album over a month ago.

After that live performance, one of its stunning songs really stuck with me - to the point that I think I've Googled it once weekly hoping to stumble on an early stream. Today, the band debuted the full album stream via Clash, and I finally got my paws on that perfect track.

"More Than," the fourth song into the band's first album in four years (I have this longstanding theory that the best songs are fourth on most albums), is a beautiful indie-rock ode to the kind of love that only grows stronger over time. The midtempo track beats forward in typical Wintersleep fashion, with buzzy guitars and some swirling synth, until an unexpected choir chimes in to chant "I love you more than I said" alongside frontman Paul Murphy - ending it all on a really lovely, uplifting note.

Make the jump over to Clash Magazine to stream "More Than" - it's worth it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

5 New Must-Hear Hip-Hop and R&B Tracks

Ah, what a time. So far, 2016 has been off the hook with its rap and R&B releases; so much so that it's been really quite difficult to stay on top of the mixtapes, surprise cuts, exclusive streams and everything else hitting us at lightning speed.

And, while we're all upset we've yet to see a new Frank Ocean album drop, this past month has still been loaded with too much good stuff to ignore. (There's no point in putting Formation, Anti or TLOP on here - you'd be nuts not to know they're iconic.)

Here are five essential new R&B and rap tracks to take you into the weekend:

1. Danger - Vic Mensa: Premiered at Kanye West's Madison Square Garden Yeezy Season 3 unveiling, G.O.O.D. Music young gun Mensa blows the top off this autotune-laced banger.

2. Kung Fu (ft. Pusha T and Future) - Bauuer: This brand new track is what the doctor ordered - whether for your daytime chill-out or evening turn-up. Although the Zane Lowe-debuted track looks like a weird collaboration at first glance, Pusha's grimy rhymes and Future's sung chorus coast perfectly over Bauuer's hazy electronic backdrop.

3. Heart Crush - BJ The Chicago Kid: While I toyed with which song to highlight off BJTCK's fire major label debut (Church, Woman's World and The New Cupid were all strong contenders), it's this understated heartbroken ballad that puts the rising star up there with genre-mates and admirers Miguel and The-Dream.

4. By Chance - Rae Sremmurd: Say what you will about Rae Sremmurd - like, how they're by no means revolutionizing rap - but the brothers have continued to perfect their formula of blasé earworms like this one, which will appear on Mike WiLL Made-It's forthcoming mixtape.

5. The Introduction - J. Dilla: The late, beyond great Dilla was, and continues to be, a mastermind who crafted endless beats, rhymes and material - a legacy which has carried into his posthumous chapter. This April, Dilla returns in the form of lost album The Diary, with this relentless track as the album opener.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

3 Must-Hear Canadian Songs

It's looking like 2016 is going to be a solid year in Canadian music. With a number of new albums either out or on their way, we've seen a solid flow of noteworthy, feel-food singles hitting the digital space and further proving the Great White North is becoming quite the force to be reckoned with.

Here are three new songs from Canadian artists that have held steady places in my 2016 playlists:

Good Advice - Basia Bulat: Also the title of Bulat's recent Jim James-produced release, "Good Advice" is a dreamy heartbreaker that's delivered perfectly via her celebrated raspy croon. It's especially worth sticking with the otherwise downtempo song for the beautiful turn it takes at 2:30.

West - River Tiber feat. Daniel Caesar: Two of Toronto's soul heavy hitters trade verses on this wavy new cut, which premiered on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 last week. If you still aren't tuned into Toronto's young class of artists and producers who are racking up star-studded credits, get there now, because they're helping this city come alive.

No Salesman - Jordan Klassen: A longtime fan of Vancouver artist and all-round great guy Klassen, I've listened to this chill-inducing ballad a silly number of times since first hearing it late last year. He matures considerably on the rest of his new album Javelin, which dropped last week and is a colourful departure into new age-infused folk.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Most Beautiful New Track: "Nostos" - Jean-Michel Blais

31 year-old Quebec pianist Jean-Michel Blais will release his debut full-length on Arts & Crafts this spring, and until then, he's gifted us his debut single.

Since first discovering "Nostos" last week, if I've listened to it once, I've listened to it 100 times. It takes my breath away every time.

Similar to pianists Chilly Gonzalez or Phillip Glass, it's clear that Blais took his natural skill and formal training and did the opposite of what was expected of him. On "Nostos," Blais begins on a tinkering note before building the layers to reach an anthemic peak, with the subtle help of electronic producer Bufflo. From that heartwarming beginning to the eventual swell, "Nostos" is perfection, and proof that you just need the right melody, the right progression - without all the bells and whistles - to create something really timeless.

Look out for II on April 8, via A&C.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Best New Track: "No Woman" - Whitney

Chicago folk-rockers Whitney released their debut single "No Woman" at the tail-end of last year, and I'm pretty disappointed I only came across it this week - therefore wasting a few months without this dreamy country-soul gem in my life.

A new addition to the Secretly Canadian family, Whitney is comprised of former Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra members, which you can hear in this practically perfect bundle of breezy horns, strings, twang-riddled guitar and lead vocalist Julien Ehrlich's falsetto. A sort of wistful drifter's anthem, this psychedelic ballad oozes beauty, start to finish, with vibes that call for some setting sun and an open road.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

TBT: 27 Songs I'll Never Get Sick Of

In my musical diet, there's a select list of all-time favourite songs that I always have in my back pocket. I never get sick of them. They're timeless. I can switch devices or streaming services, car stereos, etc. - but they always make their way in, with love. 

I glanced at my iTunes the other day, then over to my stacks of CDs, and rounded up 27 of these songs (since I'm 27?). Even if they've only been around for a handful of years, after hundreds and hundreds of plays, it's enough to know they're not going anywhere. Maybe you'll see or hear them differently, but these are the ones I couldn't get sick of if I tried.

Here's a Spotify playlist (of the available songs), if you'd like to listen there.

Sweet Thing - Van Morrison (my hands-down, all-time favourite song)

Bennie and the Jets - Elton John

Try A Little Tenderness - Otis Redding

 Crimson and Clover - Tommy James & The Shondells

 Brooklyn Masala - Masta Ace

Love You Till The End - The Pogues

Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen

I Go To The Barn (Because I Like The) - Band of Horses

Just Like Honey - The Jesus and Mary Chain

A Little Lost - Arthur Russell

Runaway - Kanye West

Alone - Trampled By Turtles

Feelin' Alright - Joe Cocker

Sometimes - My Bloody Valentine

Your Love Means Everything Pt. 2 - Faultline (feat. Chris Martin)

Fans - Kings of Leon

Raconte-Moi Une Histoire - M83

Don't Worry Baby - The Beach Boys

The Art of Peer Pressure - Kendrick Lamar

 I Got You Babe - Sonny and Cher

Do You... - Miguel

Everything is Everything - Lauryn Hill

Walking Through That Door - Future Islands

Tenderness - General Public

Hello Operator - The White Stripes

Hey Hey What Can I Do - Led Zeppelin

Ghetto Rock - Mos Def

PS. Give "Only" - Nicki Minaj a few more years and it will be number one on this list.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Best New Track: Kanye West - "Famous"

Kanye West is certified nuts. And most of the time, an asshole. That being said, The Life of Pablo is quite possibly his greatest masterpiece.

Last week, following West's sold out Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden where he also debuted most of his (then) forthcoming new album, the internet erupted in disgrace at his misogynistic lyricism geared towards frienemy Taylor Swift. Specifically, "Famous" contains the lyric, "I feel like me and Taylor might have sex/ Why? I made that bitch famous." Excusing misogyny in music isn't the point here; it's as prevalent in rap as the widespread demonization of West and his laughable arrogance is. But, even as a feminist, I can't let a ridiculous bundle of words aimed at another celebrity completely discredit the brilliance of this song's assembly.

Start to finish, "Famous" is a stunning piece of music. We get antagonistic, quick-spitting Ye, packaged alongside Rihanna's smooth rendition of Nina Simone's "Do What You Gotta Do," which swings back later in its original format. The ticket to adoring "Famous," however, is the beautiful glimpse into Ye's brain as a mastermind producer, which hits around the 1:45 mark when Sister Nancy's reggae classic "Bam Bam" randomly interjects to round out the song. Morphed into an anthemic two-minutes of melodic bliss that wraps itself around the Simone sample, this middle eight of sorts is nothing you'd see coming - but completely irresistible once you know it's there.

Kanye has no shortage of insufferable moments, but this album - even an abrasive song like this - is certainly not one of them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Artist to Watch: Charlotte Day Wilson

Unless you're living under a rock, you know that Toronto's hip-hop scene has undergone a major refresh and global gear-up in the past few years. And, while our indie-rock, pop and electro acts have had their successes as well - the past six months have raised increasingly more conversation around the city's burgeoning R&B presence and its underground players, who are bonding together to create some of the genre's sultriest sounds.

Take Charlotte Day Wilson - a young Toronto singer who fronted local group the WAYO before recently stepping away to produce and record her own solo material. On her debut single "After All," which premiered on Rookie Mag, Day's barely-there vocals slink around a breezy keyboard melody and beat, reminiscent of that Sade-perfected, neo-soul groove. In all of her sonic and vocal subtleties, Day Wilson's music is powerful and self-assured - making her maybe one of the most intriguing young artists in Toronto right now.

Have a listen to "After All" below.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Best New Album: Wet - Don't You

Over two years ago, I came across the most refreshing flavour of adult contemporary pop; one that's since caught on as the new space to play in, if you can find your edge. Founded on sweet R&B melodies, dainty vocals and really honest lyricism - Wet's three-song collection was one of the first to try that equally sad and gorgeous synth-pop song that felt too indie for the pop world, yet too pop for the indie world. They quickly mastered a beautiful in-between.

Fast-forward to present day, less than a month after the Brooklyn-based trio finally released their debut full-length Don't You following a steady trickle of singles, and the nine soulful additions are evidence this band knows feelings, and they know them well. Wet's ballads pull from melancholic, washy 90s R&B and soft-pop, fusing together to create this unequivocally emotive sound and likability, no matter your taste. Every song is vulnerable, even the happy ones (on "You're the Best," frontwoman Kelly Zutrau coos "I still feel lonely when you hold me"), and the whole experience is sometimes painfully relatable. But, when delivered alongside delicate guitar lines and urban beats, it's hard to feel downhearted about any of it, because it's all just so damn pretty.

Don't You is out now, via Columbia Records. Listen to four favourites below.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Artist to Watch: Tor Miller

Last week, I had the pleasure of checking out Glassnote Records up-and-comer Tor Miller as he rolled through town to perform at The Drake. I'd already been listening to his Headlights EP and infectious new single, "Carter and Cash," but was totally blown away by his live energy and powerful vocal delivery. To boot, he's just a really nice guy.

Although the Brooklyn-bred 21 year-old only has a handful of songs at this point, the late-night city ballads and soulful pop-rock showcase his mature songwriting capabilities, which, paired with that raspy voice and boy wonder look, make me think he's in for some sure shot longevity.

Check out the beautiful title track from his debut EP and "Carter and Cash" below.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Watch Leon Bridges' Powerful Video for "River"

Although it might have not been the most acclaimed song, Leon Bridges' "River" was easily my favourite song of 2015. I still remember the first time I heard it, a month or so ahead of the release of his debut album Coming Home, and it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. The story of redemption and guitar melody are timeless, and every time I hear those opening strums, my heart still flutters.

Today, Bridges released a powerful video for the song, coupled with a really moving message regarding its meaning. On "River," Bridges said:

"A river has historically been used in gospel music as symbolism for change and redemption. My goal was to write a song about my personal spiritual experience. It was written during a time of real depression in my life and I recall sitting in my garage trying to write a song which reflected this struggle. I felt stuck working multiple jobs to support myself and my mother. I had little hope and couldn’t see a road out of my reality. The only thing I could cling to in the midst of all that was my faith in God and my only path towards baptism was by way of the river."